Feet First

“It is much more important to know what sort of a patient has a disease than what sort of a disease a patient has.” - Sir William Osler

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    Wednesday, July 30, 2008
    Don't Bring Me Down

    I learn from my patients. I think most doctors do, if they pay attention. This past week I saw a patient for something very basic - a blood pressure check - but on reviewing her old records she began to tell me about the terrible dermatitis she'd had in her ears for a long time. I don't mean ordinary itchy ears, I mean something severe enough to weep or bleed. She saw a lot of doctors for this and tried a lot of medications, till she saw an ear nose and throat specialist who finally figured out the problem.

    She was allergic to down. As in feathers. Her pillows, her comforter both contained down; she went home, bagged them up, got rid of them and her problem disappeared. This story impressed me quite a bit.

    "I know lots of people are allergic to down," I commented, "but I thought it only gave people respiratory symptoms or itchy eyes."

    "No," the patient responded definitely. "This guy was a genius. He said down was causing my ear problems and he was right."

    This is the sort of thing I try to remember, because you never know when someone with really irritated ears is going to walk through the door.




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